Jim said the Lavert [Hill] pick was not a penalty. What did you see on that play?
“Yeah, I was astonished. I actually asked the official at halftime, I said, ‘What happened? What’d he do?’ He said he tugged on his top shoulder and that’s what made him able to slingshot in front of him. You look at the film and you don’t see that, you just see a kid making a hell of a play, so I was surprised.”
Tyree [Kinnel] said he sees a little Jourdan [Lewis] in him. Do you see that?
“Yeah, you know what, I can see it. I can see what Tyree’s saying, and Lavert is starting to come out of his shell a little bit and you can see his fieriness, his competitiveness more in practice as the year goes, so absolutely.”
Have you been pretty happy with David Long’s progression at the other spot?
“David has progressed well. B-Wat has progressed well. Yes, happy. We still need to progress, absolutely.”
We’re starting to see a little bit of Ambry Thomas in pivotal game moments. What has he been able to do?
“Ambry’s come along. He had to go in there because David got dinged up a little bit or a little dizzy, but Ambry’s coming and so is Benjamin St. Juste. Both those guys are working extremely hard. I would say if they keep up this pace, in a couple weeks I wouldn’t be afraid to put them in more than what they’re seeing now.”
[After THE JUMP: the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau is gonna love this]
You said this summer it was a little strange the first time you went to Penn State and played against them.
Are you over that little—
“Oh yeah, absolutely. It was pretty surreal. It really was. Going there, my son played there and going to his games, then standing on the other sideline… it was interesting. It was very interesting. But I’m very excited to get back there this Saturday. I think we’re going to see a good game, very competitive game.”
Your thoughts on your guys in run support so far?
“So far, so good. For all the man we play, they’re not getting run off a lot. They’re seeing it and they’re able to fill. I think Lavert had two or three tackles for losses the last couple games, so he’s seeing it. David made a huge play in the Michigan State game coming off a man and stopping a third-down play, so they’re seeing it, which is good.”
“Boy, this is an easy crowd.”
What are the challenges Penn State’s receivers pose?
“Well, I think as a whole they are more—they’re probably the best we’ve seen all year. I would put them with the Florida group but maybe just a notch ahead, because all four of them are pretty good, pretty fluid downfield.”
What’s been the biggest difference for Lavert to get from where he was in the spring to where he is now? What’s the thing that stood out to you [inaudible]?
“Yeah, I think he’s just starting to mature and starting to understand that he could be a really good football player, and I think just that process. Every day just staying on him, staying on them all and helping them all grow up and understand the game.”
When you guys were getting ready for them last year and getting ready for McSorley to what you see now, how has he changed?
“Really he’s pretty much the same guy. I’m watching all this film [and] he still likes to run. He likes to get out of the pocket. He’s a lot like the last two quarterbacks we’ve faced, so in a sense it’s been helpful Playing Michigan State, playing Indiana where the quarterback likes to get out of the pocket and run, so he is the same guy, I think, from a year ago. Competitor. Great competitor. Great competitor.”
Is this one of those things where more reps and more snaps and you just have to progress that way?
The last drive before the end of regulation, Tyree said you guys played off a little bit more. Was that by design or was that saying that they were individually a bit more cautious?
“We were playing off? In coverage?”
Yes. Is that incorrect?
“No, that is true, that is true. Just being smart in some situations, that’s all. Certain calls. Got a better view of things, not letting them get anything behind you.”
In a game like this, is it more important for your guys not just to defend but to make a play?
“Well, you never want to press to make plays. I think naturally you make plays. You’re not thinking about it, you’re just reacting and playing. I think that’s how you make plays, by just reaction. No thinking. If you get too analytical and you start pressing the point, then they start thinking, then their feet stop, then plays are made against us. So we just practice hard, practice, and the way we practice is just hey, you’re prepared, go play. That’s kind of the way we’re approaching it. Always have.”
Do you think Lavert’s made that next step now to not just knocking down balls but looking to pick it off as we saw that in the last game?
“Yeah… he’s very natural, very instinctive. He’s going to do whatever he can to get his hands on it, so I think he’s always looking for a pick, but if knows he can’t he’ll try to slap it or backhand it away. He’s instinctive in that way.”
So is he ahead of the curve, do you think?
“I think so a little bit. A little bit. We saw it. There’s a reason why we recruited him. It was great to have him here in the spring. You could just see that he could do some things. Then now it’s just applying it now to everyday activities on a consistent basis. [knocks on actual wood] Thus far since the summer, all those guys have accepted the challenge, so to speak, and are getting better.”
I know he’s not your guy, but can you talk about Mo Hurst and the effect he’s had making life easier for your guys?
“He’s a really talented guy, really talented football player and he’s very quick, as you all see, and he’s great coming off the football. I mean, his acceleration off the line of scrimmage, his ability to get in the gaps and make penetration, causes a lot of havoc for the offensive line and that has been extremely helpful. Quarterbacks don’t have much time when he’s in there, for sure.”
All the defensive players came in last night and talked about big stage, chance to show the world, etc. Is that a theme? Is that something the coaches have sort of preached to them?
“Nah, I think—I think they understand it’s a big game. We were coming off the field yesterday and on the TV Michigan-Penn State, 7:30, white out and all that good stuff, so they know. That’s what’s kind of nice: it’s built in, so hopefully that will help in our preparation.”
They were talking about a chip on their shoulder, getting knocked down in the rankings, I think Chase said slap after slap in the face.
“Well, yeah, and I can understand their frustration. They’re part of a really good defense nationally and yet they see we win a game, a lot of teams ahead of us who were ranked lose games, and we go backwards. So yeah, I could see there’s a little chip on the shoulder. [chuckles] Absolutely.”
[a shorter pause]
“Man, you guys are easy. This is easy. Are we done?”
So what do you recommend doing in State College?
“What do I recommend? There’s a lot of good places, but those are places you wouldn’t want to go.”
“I had a couple old places we used to hang out but I don’t even think they’re around any more.”
So stick to the sticky buns and the creamery?
“Yeah, yep, yep, yep. It’s a good place. We’ll enjoy it. Hopefully we’ll enjoy Saturday.”
In June or July you said last year’s game, you didn’t expect to see that much of a—
“No, I really did not expect that big of a margin of victory, if you will. But they had some very key injuries on defense, and then the linebacker gets called and kicked out of the game for targeting which it really wasn’t targeting and you could just see the whole team kind of just deflated a little bit. So yeah, we were surprised. We were all surprised. That’s certainly not going to be the case this weekend. It’s going to be a great game, great battle. I think it’ll be a fun game for the nation to see.”
Watching them on film, a lot of the same personnel as last year. Why are they so much better?
“Well, I think they’re just confident. Coach Franklin’s done a hell of a job just getting them confident. You look at after our game, you would have thought last year that they were done and they ended up running the table, so they’ve got confidence. Confidence helps a lot, and they all have it. It shows. They’re playing well. They’re playing very hard.”
Will this be the toughest atmosphere your guys have seen?
“For this year, yes, absolutely. It’ll be a great atmosphere. Certainly the white out will have something to do with that. As far as this year’s away games go, yeah, this’ll definitely be the best place they’ve seen.”
Anything different to try and prep for that?
“Nah, nah. Coach does the same things we’ve done for every away game, so there’s nothing more or less.”
Did you hang out at the Rathskellar? Is that it?
“Oh-hooo. That was—that was one of the spots. You been there?”
Yeah. They have the little bottles of… Rolling Rock?
“Rolling Rock, yeah.”
At first I thought it was Skulldrudgery but Rathskellar.
“Yep, yep. That’s going back a bit there.”
Don’t they bring a case of beer out on the table?
“Put it on the table, yeah. I was 21 when I went there. Absolutely.”
Okay, is this ov--
“Where’s this going? You’re gonna get me fired!”